Whang Pu

Taikoo Dockyard and Engineering Company, Hong Kong
1 October 1943
22 April 1946
Dimensions & Displacement
Length 103 metres
Beam 14 metres
Draught 3.5 metres
Crew 62 Officers and Sailors

HMAS Whang Pu served as a mobile repair ship and stores carrier in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) during 1943-46. She was built as the Whang Phu at the Taikoo Dockyard and Engineering Company, Hong Kong in 1920. She was a 3200 tonne passenger and cargo vessel operated by the China Navigation Company, based in Hong Kong and from 1920 until 1941 she operated in the coastal waters and major rivers of China carrying passengers and cargo.

In late 1941 Whang Pu was requisitioned by the Royal Navy for conversion to a submarine depot ship in Singapore, however, due to the heavy fighting in Malaya and the frequent bombing of the dockyards, she departed Singapore on 2 February 1942 and dispatched to Fremantle, Western Australia. After arriving at Fremantle, on 2 March 1942, she was utilised as an accommodation ship for Royal Netherlands Navy submarine and minesweeper crews that had escaped to Australia following the capture of the Netherlands East Indies by Japanese forces in March 1942.

Whang Pu was handed over to the RAN in early September 1943 and commissioned, at Fremantle, on 1 October 1943 under the command of acting lieutenant commander George Owen, RANR (S). Soon after she sailed to Melbourne for conversion to a mobile repair ship. This work also included the fitting of a single Bofors gun and three Oerlikon 20 mm anti-aircraft guns for self-defence. She sailed from Melbourne on 18 April 1944 and spent the next four weeks in Sydney loading stores and preparing for her voyage to New Guinea. Whang Pu departed Sydney on 23 May and sailed, via Brisbane, to Milne Bay arriving on 6 June 1944.

Her work was important but far from glamourous. Her ships company conducted repairs to engines and other equipment in motor launches and corvettes. Teams were sent to nearby ships to conduct boiler cleaning, thus sparing the ships company of these ships that onerous task. Her storemen issued clothing, provisions and building material to ships and units ashore. A team was also sent ashore to clear vegetation, fill in shell and bomb craters and collect Japanese ordnance for dumping at sea. Her medical officer and sick berth attendants also provided treatment to personnel from smaller vessels. Whang Pu’s supply officer became a popular man, providing pay to the crews of many of the smaller RAN vessels as well as being the sole Commonwealth Savings Bank representative for the many RAN vessels operating in New Guinea waters. 

HMAS Whang Pu was utilised as an accommodation ship, a mobile repair ship, a base works ship and fulfilled numerous other roles. Understandably, the ship was referred to as a ‘Jack of all trades’
HMAS Whang Pu was utilised as an accommodation ship, a mobile repair ship, a base works ship and fulfilled numerous other roles. Understandably, the ship was referred to as a ‘Jack of all trades’

On 6 July 1944 Whang Pu departed Milne Bay and headed to Madang, via Finschhafen, arriving there on the 9th. She was now utilised as a base works ship for the construction of the base facilities at Madang, as well as continuing to provide repair facilities for frigates, corvettes and motor launches. Logistics and medical support continued with Whang Pu supporting over 2000 RAN personnel ashore or in smaller vessels. In April-May 1945 Whang Pu was converted to a Naval Stores Issue Ship but remained the ‘Jack of all trades’ for maintenance and administrative support.

On 10 June 1945 Whang Pu departed Madang and headed westward to her final tasking at the island of Morotai, in the Netherlands East Indies. Morotai had been captured in September 1944 by US troops and was used as a forward air and naval base by Allied units. Australian forces were also based on the island in preparation for the landings on Borneo in 1945. Isolated parts of the island were still held by the Japanese but they were contained and rarely seen. 

Whang Pu arrived at Morotai on 16 June and was moored in the harbour and commenced work as a stores issuing ship and floating workshop for smaller vessels – she was not to move for her berth for the next nine months. The ship suffered her only death on 20 June 1945 when Steward William Fisher died while returning from leave ashore; he slipped when boarding the ship, struck his head and subsequently drowned. He was buried in the war cemetery at Morotai but was later re-interred at Ambon War Cemetery, Indonesia.

Whang Pu was at Morotai when the Japanese surrender was accepted there by General Thomas Blamey on 9 September 1945. She finally departed the island on 16 February 1946, with a steaming crew and stores personnel only on board. She sailed north, via Subic Bay, to Hong Kong where she arrived on 26 February.

After being de-stored she was decommissioned on 22 April 1946 and her remaining ships company returned to Australia in the frigate HMAS Murchison. Whang Pu was then returned to her owners.

Whang Pu was sold in November 1949 and broken up. 

Commanding Officers

1 October 1943 - 22 November 1945

Acting Lieutenant Commander George Ewart Vaughan Owen, RANR (S)   

23 November 1945 - 23 March 1946

Lieutenant Commander Robert Hugh O’Neill, RANR (S) 

24 March 1946 - 22 April 1946

Lieutenant Commander Alexander Victor Buckley, RANR
Unique pennant representing the ship's RAN service and her Chinese heritage.
Unique pennant representing the ship's RAN service and her Chinese heritage.